Music

Hail the Villain: Population: Declining

Canadian four-piece delivers melodic, metallic hard-rock on its debut.


Hail the Villain

Population: Declining

US Release: 2010-10-04
Label: Roadrunner
UK Release: 2010-06-07
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Hail the Villain has a great website. You should go to it. Don’t click “Skip Intro” -- the vehicular homicide that opens the site, which looks like Frank Miller’s Sin City reimagined by Ed Hardy, is at least worth your 30 seconds, even if the site itself loses your attention. As a throwback to the days when Flash animators were celebrities because everyone was still amazed by the Internet, it’s a refreshing little waste of time. In fact, I’d recommend it over their debut album, Population: Declining, which isn’t a waste of time -- not completely -- but isn’t a throwback to anything either, beyond static, status quo alternative metal.

But I guess that’s just Roadrunner’s jam these days, isn’t it? It seems that its days of independently dispensing indispensable heavy metal -- Obituary’s Slowly We Rot, Sepultura’s classic early albums, and the European releases of Metallica’s pre-Black Album output -- are long behind them. Now, just barely hanging on to the bottom of Warner Bros.’ totem pole (you should see their website), they’re the spleen for big names -- Korn, RATT, even Kiss now have a home there -- and radio-ready small fries. There’s always the hope that one of these veterans will turn out a late-career stunner -- Megadeth released serviceable solid albums last year -- or that one of those upstarts will be the next Opeth, so picking up a Roadrunner record isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s getting pretty close, though.

Population: Declining isn’t about to cushion that fall, but Hail the Villain does get your hopes up. When two bass kicks close out the first line of nu-metal riffing on “Take Back the Fear”, I nearly expected the stop-start drumming to drop off into some suffocating mathcore madness a la Gabe Serbian of The Locust. But, no. Only more of that same nu-metal riffing, then a two-part harmony in the chorus, an atmospheric interlude that lasts about two seconds, and a melodic bridge that wouldn’t be out of place on a lesser Foo Fighters song. The semi-automatic attack of faster songs like “My Reward”, “Evil Has a Name”, “Try Hating the World” and “Social Graces” similarly piqued my interest by virtue of their aggression alone, before launching into their lame choruses and lamer interludes.

When did this become the norm in alternative metal, this unceasing heavy-pretty-heavy pattern? Why does every verse of down-tuned thrashing have to be followed by a soaring chorus? The sound is harder and gruffer than even Alice in Chains, easily the most metallic of the grunge greats, but the songwriting is pure pop. Hail the Villain wants to have it all: their macho bluster qualifies them for Ozzfest, but their dour melodicism and notebook-margin angst could put them onstage with teen-friendly goth acts like In This Moment and Atreyu.

The result is a rock ‘n’ roll compromise of the most middling order. The metal on Population: Declining wants to be played on MTV, and is (sometimes) catchy enough to burrow into your brain momentarily. “Blackout” and “Pyro” are the only real moshers on the album, and they go in the ear and out the other -- which, of course, just proves my point: Hail the Villain is a radio rock act at its heart. Their unceasing thrash riffing is meaty but monotonous, and their songwriting is just too plain to warrant a recommendation.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.